Actress and singer Audra McDonald made history during the 2014 Tony Awards when she won her sixth Tony for her leading role as Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”. In her moving acceptance speech, McDonald not only thanked her parents for their support, but also for their life-changing decision to not put her on ADHD medication as a child.
“I want to thank my mom and my dad in heaven for disobeying the doctor’s orders and not medicating their hyperactive girl,” she said onstage. “And finding out what she was into instead and pushing her into the theater.”
Although some took offense to McDonald’s comments, she recently penned a response to share why publicly thanking her parents for their struggles and making “a very personal, difficult” decision was exactly what she wanted to do.
After months of increasingly frustrating, painful moments watching their child struggle, and after talking with psychologists and my teachers — but not yet having the benefit of decades of research, media and social discourse on what was still a relatively new medication — my parents happened to attend a performance at a local dinner theater. Although my family was a very musical one — my dad was a high school music teacher, my grandmothers both taught piano, and, as you yourself were kind enough to bring up in your letter, my aunts used to sing at various black churches in California in the ’50s and ’60s — we were not theatergoers.
That night, at that theater in Fresno, Calif., my mother and father saw a troupe of young children performing in a pre-show cabaret. A light bulb went off in their heads and they decided to encourage me to audition to be a member of this troupe, in hopes that it might be a good outlet for my energy, an oasis for my emotions and possibly a place for me to build some desperately needed confidence.
Read more about Audra McDonald and ADHD at BlackDoctor.Org.
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